Chip MacGregor

September 2, 2015

How I got screwed by Delta (your Happy Traveler Note of the Week)


So last week I was supposed to fly from Denver (where I was having publishing meetings) to Nashville (where we were hosting a marketing seminar for our authors). I’m the type that Deltaalways tries to keep travel expenses low (in the technical term, a “cheapskate”), so I used some Delta miles to purchase a one-way ticket  back in April. I made sure to get a ticket in the late afternoon, figuring if there’s any sort of problem, Delta could always stick me onto a later flight. I had to be in Nashville at 9 the next morning to speak.

So I get to the airport in plenty of time, go to one of those Delta machines… and it won’t check me in. It says there’s a problem, and I have to go stand in line. Grrr. Okay, so I stand in line a half hour, am greeted by a very nice Delta employee who looks sharp but, unfortunately, has the attention span of a Cocker Spaniel, and who informs me that my flight, which routed me through Atlanta, was changed, and they’d be getting me to Nashville, not that night, but THE NEXT DAY. AT 1:30 IN THE AFTERNOON. She smiles sweetly as she says this.

I keep my cool, explain that no, that plan won’t work, I’ve got to speak in the morning, and they need to find some alternative. She looks around, as though I’m speaking a foreign language, then says she can’t find any alternatives. “Um… really?” I ask. “Because I used to live in Nashville, flew in and out all the time, and there are plenty of flights into BNA. It’s only 4 PM, there’s no weather, so maybe you could look again?” She does, but I can’t tell if she really understands the routes, since she twice talks about getting me to Charlotte — which, technically, isn’t Nashville, although I hear they also have great ribs.

Anyway, the line behind me begins to build, and it’s clear she’s getting nervous. So she calls someone, who tells her to put me on another airline. The gal isn’t sure what to do, so I explain that United, Frontier, American, and Southwest all can route me from Denver to Nashville. I watch her call American, wait on hold, stare at the growing line, and get more frantic. Eventually she talks with someone briefly (and by briefly, I mean REALLY briefly), then hangs up the phone and says to me, “Because of the lateness in the day, I can’t seem to get a seat. But if you’ll go to one of the other ticket counters and purchase a ticket, Delta will reimburse you.” 

Now, I may live in a small town in Oregon, but I’m no fool. “Um, no,” I explain to her. “They won’t. I know because I went through this with United one time. The gate agent said United would reimburse me, but they never did. I got screwed for about $300. Why don’t you try again?” She looks around, as if she’s forgotten where she was, then calls someone, never actually speaks to anyone, and finally looks at me and says, “If you purchase another ticket, Delta will reimburse you for the cost. I’ll even put that in the notes on this ticket.”  

Well, by now I’ve been at this an hour, and I’m no closer to Nashville, so I take her word for it. I walk ten feet away, find the cheapest last-minute fare I can get, and buy a one-way ticket to Nashville that night on Southwest for $457. I grab my boarding pass and receipt, and go back to the Delta line. I wait another 20 minutes, get to the front of the line and say to Miss Cocker Spaniel, “See? I bought another ticket! I’d like Delta to reimburse me!”

Of course she shakes her head and says, “Oh, we don’t do reimbursements here. You have to call for that.” 

A red light goes off in my head. “I knew it. Delta is going to screw me, aren’t they?”

“No! I’ve put it right here in the notes. When you call, just give them the ticket number and they’ll be able to find my notes explaining it all.” 

Uh-huh. Note to travelers: Don’t take the word of gate agents who remind you of cute puppies. I fly to Nashville, do the marketing seminar, meet with publishers… and call Delta. About a dozen times. I fill in the online forms. I give them my ticket number. I send a complaint letter. Nobody knows anything about my flight to Nashville. They can’t find out anything. I kept expecting one of them to say to me, “Perhaps you dreamed it all…” They lie and stonewall and intend to stick me with a $457 bill that I shouldn’t have had to pay. One person offers to put my miles back into my account — which, um, isn’t exactly a “win” in my book, since I never, you know, actually took a Delta flight. Giving me back my own miles on a flight they screwed up doesn’t strike me as making them eligible for “Customer Service Giant of the Year.”

Finally, a week later, on roughly my fifteenth call, I lose it. When the woman says there are no notes about me buying another ticket, and that no Delta ticket agent would ever suggest buying a seat on another airline, I start yelling… “I run a business! I know that I’m responsible for what the people who work for me say. If they make a promise, I’m on the hook. I bought this ticket because your gate agent encouraged me to — over my own objections! So screw Delta! You people are liars and cheats!”

Her response: “Sir, I’m reporting you to Delta.” 

Well… ouch. THAT certainly hurt. I mean, what’s going to happen now — on my next flight, Delta is going to give me crappy service? (And, to ask a rhetorical question, if Delta decided to give me crappy service, how would I recognize it?) 

So there you have it. I’m still sitting here, looking at my receipt for the Southwest flight that I didn’t want to buy. Screwed out of $457 by Delta Airlines. Thanks Delta!

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  • A.E Sawan says:

    I hate to rain on your parade. First thing is take name and employee number. second ask to speak directly to a supervisor. Cute does not correlate to competent.
    When I worked and lived in France. I traveled five times a week, the employees and customs agents knew me by name, Since it was a small airport in Nice. I can tell you stories about almost every airline. Say a silent goodbye to your $457. If you think Delta is bad, try Air Canada. You will think Delta is Emirates.

  • Patricia Zell says:

    What a perfect situation to ask God to work all things out for your good and the good of all the people involved.

  • Jamie Chavez says:

    Have you tried crying (on the phone)? That worked for me a few years ago.

  • James E. Bunch says:

    Best thing is don’t fly DL. I know that’s easier said than done, but I had a similar experience in Frankfurt on my return to the USA after four years in Germany, 1992. A schedule change means we would have missed our connection in Atlanta. The supervisor in Frankfurt accused me of doing this on purpose in hopes of getting a seat in B class. I almost lost it with all the guys in flak jackets walking around FRA with Uzis. That became my last long-haul with DL and I only flew them to burn remaining miles. I’m on DL in November because it’s a Flex Rewards award ticket. After than encounter I went back to AA, then later to Northwest. Loved being Plat on NW, until Delta bought them out. Moved to Continental, who matched my Plat status, only to see United buy them a year later. So glad I am no longer a road warrior!

  • Laurel Kashinn says:

    How’s your hand at poetry? Maybe you could pen a few lines and send it over to Dave Carroll to put it to music. It worked great with United.

  • Patricia Nilsen says:

    Insert almost the exact same story, earlier this month, except they did it with two tickets of mine (mine and my mother’s). My only recourse was to purchase two tickets on a Virgin flight for $660 apiece. They refunded my credit card my original purchase of only $400/ticket and then CHARGED IT BACK WITHOUT MY CONSENT because I flew the return portion. They did end up refunding me $192/ticket (since I flew back on delta) after several phone calls and online forms, which puts me out $900 now instead of the original $500 i was disgusted about (more $$ than i even paid for the original tickets). They also told me they’d deposit some extra miles in my account (which still aren’t there).

  • Anna Labno says:

    Yep, I lost about $200 with that airline this year in May, so I know how it feels. Next time record it on your phone then post it on Facebook.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Well… yeah. In hindsight that would have been nice. It wouldn’t have forced Delta to do anything different, since Delta sucks, but it would have been a nice piece of video to post.

  • Not sure but the key might be “paying customer.” Last year I missed ACFW because my Thursday plane kept getting switched until they had me on a Saturday plane and I was like, yeah right. And as it turned out…I would have been trapped in Chicago until the conference was over…but I was doing it with my frequent flyer miles. I’ve NEVER had a plane that I payed cash for miss getting me where I needed to go…Now getting home is a whole other kettle of fish, but by then I don’t care.

  • Okay I kept trying not to bust out laughing (not in a place that’s quite appropriate) but I just had an “experience” with Spirit Airlines so this was especially timely. Got to give it to both Delta’s completely worthless service AND Southwest’s ridiculously priced last-minute tickets. Not sure I’ll ever view Cocker Spaniels quite the same.

  • Tom Threadgill says:

    And this is just another reason I’ll do anything to avoid flying. Sometimes there’s no way around it though. Such a hassle… maybe Delta will see this, realize the error of their ways, and repent. Either that or just giggle. 🙁

  • johnvonhof says:

    I would have used my phone to record her reimbursement promise.

  • Cameron Bane says:

    “Delta: Because Trains Take Too Long”

  • Deb Kinnard says:

    And others have the same tale on United, American…there is no discernible difference in the way the airlines treat paying passengers, these days. They are all the same IMO, and they have layers upon layers of powerless personnel who will protect them from making good on anything a single employee doth say.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I’ve found having nearly a million miles with American helps. And when I was with United (living in a city with only United flights), they seemed to care about their frequent fliers. But Delta, in a word, sucks.

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